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Pocket reading list : Week 1.1 of July

On spaghetti sauce - Malcolm Gladwell : There's a lot to learn from how products are priced and the is a lot of science behind why the product lineup is what it is. Apparently, when companies approached a consultant to help them revive their product, conduct customer surveys and help defeating their rivals. What the consultant suggested was revolutionary, for the time. This is a story of what the consultant understood from his understanding of the human condition.

The Arctic Suicides: It's Not The Dark That Kills You : Urbanisation, in many parts of the world, is on full swing, and it's moving at an especially fast and frighteningly pace in some parts of the world! This account tells us what can go wrong if this urbanisation, and it's effect on the native population, isn't handled with care. It's surprising, shocking and sad that the deaths of so many natives isn't receiving a broader public attention.

Why the S.E.C. Didn’t Hit Goldman Sachs Harder : Goldman Sachs was one of the companies responsible for the recent financial crash, that the world is still recoiling from. And the S.E.C. (Securities and Exchanges Commission) of the U.S.A. was trying to indict people at the (investment) bank for having an active role in the crash. But at the end of the day, the fine they received would've been recuperated by the bank in less than a month. This account talks about internal forces that were trying to dial down the efforts of the S.E.C. and preventing it from targeting higher-ups in the chain of command at the bank.

The Really Big One : This is what a pulitzer prize winning piece looks like, I guess. For those of you who've watched the movie San Andreas, you might know that the state of California can be badly affected by an earthquake, an earthquake that is long due. In reality, science tells us that the San Andreas fault isn't really the one that we should be scrutinising. It's precise and a scary account of what the consequences of a big earthquake are, one bigger than what Japan experience in the recent Tsunami that led to the Fukushima disaster.

‘Where Is This Flight Going?’ and Other Basic Questions About African Travel : I started with a relatively light story and I'll end with one. This is an account of the air travel industry in Africa.

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Animation using GNUPlot

Animation using GNUPlotI've been trying to create an animation depicting a quasar spectrum moving across the 5 SDSS pass bands with respect to redshift. It is important to visualise what emission lines are moving in and out of bands to be able to understand the color-redshift plots and the changes in it.
I've tried doing this using the animate function in matplotlib, python but i wasn't able to make it work - meaning i worked on it for a couple of days and then i gave up, not having found solutions for my problems on the internet.
And then i came across this site, where the gunn-peterson trough and the lyman alpha forest have been depicted - in a beautiful manner. And this got me interested in using js and d3 to do the animations and make it dynamic - using sliders etc.
In the meanwhile, i thought i'd look up and see if there was a way to create animations in gnuplot and whoopdedoo, what do i find but nirvana!

In the image, you see 5 static curves and one dynam…

on MOOCs.

For those of you who don't know, MOOC stands for Massively Open Online Course.

The internet is an awesome thing. It's making education free for all. Well, mostly free. But it's surprising at the width and depth of courses being offered online. And it looks like they are also having an impact on students, especially those from universities that are not top ranked. Students in all parts of the world can now get a first class education experience, thanks to courses offered by Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.

I'm talking about MOOCs because one of my new year resolutions is to take online courses, atleast 2 per semester (6 months). And I've chosen the following two courses on edX - Analyzing Big Data with Microsoft R Server and Data Science Essentials for now. I looked at courses on Coursera but I couldn't find any which was worthy and free. There are a lot more MOOC providers out there but let's start here. And I feel like the two courses are relevant to where I …

On programmers.

I just watched this brilliant keynote today. It's a commentary on Programmers and the software development industry/ecosystem as a whole.

I am not going to give you a tl;dr version of the talk because it is a talk that I believe everyone should watch, that everyone should learn from. Instead, I am going to give my own parallel-ish views on programmers and programming.
As pointed out in the talk, there are mythical creatures in the software development industry who are revered as gods. Guido Van Rossum, the creator of Python, was given the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL). People flock around the creators of popular languages or libraries. They are god-like to most programmers and are treated like gods. By which, I mean to say, we assume they don't have flaws. That they are infallible. That they are perfect.
And alongside this belief in the infallibility of these Gods, we believe that they were born programmers. That programming is something that people are born wit…